Predictors of attrition in longitudinal neuroimaging research: Inhibitory control, head movement, and resting-state functional connectivity

Jonathan P. Stange, Lisanne M. Jenkins, Katie L. Bessette, Leah R. Kling, John S. Bark, Robert Shepard, Elissa J. Hamlat, Sophie Deldonno, K. Luan Phan, Alessandra M. Passarotti, Olusola Ajilore, Scott A. Langenecker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Attrition is a major problem in longitudinal neuroimaging studies, as it may lead to unreliable estimates of the stability of trait-like processes over time, of the identification of risk factors for clinical outcomes, and of the effects of treatment. Identification of characteristics associated with attrition has implications for participant recruitment and participant retention to achieve representative longitudinal samples. We investigated inhibitory control deficits, head motion, and resting-state functional connectivity within the cognitive control network (CCN) as predictors of attrition. Ninety-seven individuals with remitted major depressive disorder or healthy controls completed a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan, which included a go/no-go task and resting-state functional connectivity. Approximately 2 months later, participants were contacted and invited to return for a second scan. Seventeen individuals were lost to follow-up or declined to participate in the follow-up scan. Worse inhibitory control was correlated with greater movement within the scanner, and each predicted a greater likelihood of attrition, with movement mediating the effects of inhibitory control on attrition. Individuals who dropped out of the study exhibited greater movement than nondropouts across 9 of the 14 runs of the scan, with medium-to-large effect sizes. Finally, exploratory analyses suggested that attenuated resting-state connectivity with the CCN (particularly in bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) was associated with greater likelihood of attrition after accounting for head motion at several levels of analysis. Inhibitory control and movement within the scanner are associated with attrition, and should be considered for strategic oversampling and participant retention strategies to ensure generalizability of results in longitudinal studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-536
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Connectivity
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • attrition
  • connectivity
  • dropout
  • fMRI
  • head motion
  • inhibition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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